Chronicles of Higher Education

“The Strange Downfall of Dr. Gerald Benchley”

by Samuel Labun

 

Part 1

“Dr. Benchley, it looks like we’re going to have to let you go.”

Gerald Benchley, Ph.D., contrasts sharply with the UMass Amherst’s provost’s richly furnished office. The office appears elegant and sophisticated, but Dr. Benchley certainly does not. Because of his unique physiology, Benchley must sit on a stool, but the provost himself sits behind a broad mahogany desk in a leather backed wooden chair that probably cost about as much as a good horse. The provost’s monumental floor to ceiling shelves are well stocked with the holy, leather-bound books of academia- Proust, the Principia Mathematica, and Gibbon stand out to Gerald, but he doubts the provost has actually read any of them. Crossing katanas from Japan are mounted above the fireplace. In fact, the only thing in the office Gerald Benchley does not contrast sharply with are the shrunken heads the provost displays on the coffee table. Believe it or not, Gerald Benchley’s physical appearance is in fact even more bizarre than these (although Gerald would point out that his appearance is only bizarre relative to current fashion customs). There are many strange things going on with Gerald’s appearance, but perhaps the most obvious is his tail. Technically (and he insists on being technical), it is the 17-inch long fruiting body of a mushroom that grows out of his anus (hence the stool). In addition to the tail, Dr. Benchley has sizeable fungi growing out of his forehead, his ears, his arms, his neck, and between his toes. As the provost’s antique grandfather clock strikes two, Benchley proudly sports around thirty fungi. And he is being fired from UMass Amerherst, where he has taught biology these last twenty years.

Benchley sits opposite the provost. Dr. James Waters, the head of the biology department, sits next to Benchley in one of the majestic chairs, clearly luxurating in its power. The president of the university has made a point of not being present.

“Does this come as a shock to you, Gerald?” interjects Dr. Waters. His voice, as always, drips with condescension.

“Not at all. It’s just what I expect from what this place has become.”

The provost is flabbergasted.

“You can’t go on national television,parading around like that with all your…growths, and expect to be treated with respect. You’ve made a laughingstock of this institution. My god, your lectures are a circus, it’s like people lining up to see the elephant man. And this tail, this tail is the last straw. It’s nuts.”

“It’s far from nuts. I haven’t defecated in over two weeks because of this fungus, and I’ve never been healthier. If you consider virtually erasing solid human waste from the social infrastructure equation “nuts”, then you are blind. Do you know how much money is spent treating solid human waste each month? Do you know how much untreated human sewage is dumped into the environment each year?”

But the provost puts his hands down firmly on his desk. He has several thick rings, and they make a heavy, dull clink against the mahogany.

“This isn’t T.V., this is you getting fired. There’s no discussion. UMass thanks you for your years of service. Legal will fill you in on the details.

There’s a lawyer too. He materializes out of the deep shadows of the office where he has been waiting. The provost leans back in his chair.

“That’s all. Have a nice day Dr. Benchley.”

Dr. Benchley rises from his stool and walks briskly to the door, without so much as a glance at the lawyer.

The provost coughs. “Just a minute doctor. We’d be willing to keep you on board here, but with one condition.”

Benchley pauses and turns back, silent. He has taught at UMass for twenty years. He was born in central Massachussetts, and he has never left the good old Bay State.

The provost winks at Dr. Waters.

“You’d need to allow popcorn in your lectures. We could make serious money from concessions you know.”

Benchley slams the door behind him. As much as he hates what Amherst has become, he has work to do, and his work is the most important thing in his life.

 

 

*Newspaper clipping, The Amherst Gazette, April 7th, 2014*

…The University feels Dr. Benchley seriously harms the credibility of their establishment through his “frequent public antics”. The provost, Dr. Don Keller, claims Dr. Benchley’s classes are more like visits to a freak show than a lecture. Dr. Benchley has multiple fungal growths, all of which he claims give him some sort of benefit- such as freedom from headaches, major resistance to bacterial infection, and more supple joints. His notorious tail consumes and digests his fecal matter, so Benchley rarely if ever needs to go “number two”. All these implants give him an extremely odd appearance, which attracts the considerable number of gawkers to his lectures. Despite his poor reputation, Benchley’s implants have been tested on mice and a very small number of humans, and in these trials they do indeed accomplish precisely what Benchley claims they do- headaches are cleared and do not recurr, joints become more flexible, bacterial infections are weak, and the need to defecate disappears. However, pharmaceutical companies are uninterested in Benchley’s fungal implants because they alter people’s physical appearance in such an unattractive way that selling the things to the general public is “brand suicide”, in the words of a marketing executive at Pfizer who wishes to remain anonymous.

In response to his termination, Benchley has challenged the faculty to a competition. Benchley has defined his terms: A member of the UMass biology faculty will compete against Benchley  in a series of intellectual challenges. If the faculty member, unaided by fungal implants, outperforms Benchley, Benchley will freely resign. On the other hand, if Benchley manages to outperform the faculty member, he will be allowed to keep his post. Benchley wants the challenge to be broadcast on national television, and, unsurprisingly given Benchley’s crackpot reputation and bizarre physical appearance, the major news networks are already bidding to host the event. The university has yet to respond to the challenge…

 

*end of clipping*

 

 

Minutes from a meeting of the biology faculty (Dr. Janet Chen, Dr. James Waters, and Dr. Fritz Ziege) and provost Dr. Don Keller, April 8th 2014.

9:19pm Keller: I have to say flat out that accepting his terms is a serious mistake.

9:19pm Dr. Chen: Why do you say that?

9:19pm Keller: Well I mean, no offense to any of you, but we want this guy bye-bye, and agreeing to his terms gives him a legally binding chance of remaining in the faculty for another five years. That will not wash.

9:20pm Dr. Chen: You honestly expect him to win? We’ve worked with him, you haven’t.  I think Dr. Waters and I are both in agreement that we need to accept Benchley’s terms. If we don’t meet his challenge we’ll lose major respect, especially with the public.

9:20pm Dr. Waters: I concur for two reasons. Number one, we have nothing to lose by accepting, because Benchley is a nut and I can easily rout him. Number two, firing Benchley will be a high profile event, and if we don’t accept his challenge people all over America will think its because we’re afraid that Benchley is smarter than us, and we can’t afford to lose that much face. Accepting is the best course of action here. I’m confident I can outflank him without too much trouble.

9:21 pm Dr. Chen: With all due respect Dr. Waters, I think I’m more qualified when it comes to fungi. I’ve sat on the Industrial Fungus board of editors for nine years.

9:21 pm Dr. Waters: I’m sure we’re all well aware of your resume Janet. But what’s more important- sitting on the board of editors or actually publishing papers? I’m fairly certain I have more notches on my publication belt than anyone else in this room, that’s public record.

9:22 pm: Dr. Chen: Well, judging from your last submission I wouldn’t be so confident, Doctor.

9:22 pm: Dr. Waters: The fact is Janet students respond more to my knowledge and experience than they do to your fancy clothes. At least my classes attract serious students, not just members of the varsity squads.

9:22 pm: Dr. Chen: Excuse me?

9:22 pm: Keller: Put your fucking dicks away. Christ, if I wanted to hear tantrums I’d eat dinner at home.   I’ll say it again: What if he wins? I don’t give a rat’s ass how many articles you’ve published Waters or how many years you’ve sat on something Janet. This guy’s Ph.D. is just as good as yours and he stands a good chance of outscoring either of you. It seems a helluva lot simpler and safer to just fire his ass and let him whine about it on his blog. It’ll all die down at the end of the weekly news cycle and we can move on to re-branding Amherst as the level-headed intellectual establishment it is.

9:23 pm Keller: Dr. Ziege, you’ve been quiet. What’s our best move here in your opinion?

9:23pm Dr. Ziege : A moment please. Dr. Keller, do you have a light?

9:23pm Keller: Yeah.

9:23pm Dr. Ziege: Danke. Vat is our best move in getting rid of Dr. Benchley, you say. As my colleagues have pointed out, from dee outcomes available to us, dee most..hm..profitable outcome is to accept dee challenge and defeat Dr. Benchley at his own game, as dey say. I have a simple plan to achieve dis outcome. But, before I outline dis plan, I must make a..hmm..unortatodox request. However, it is absolutely necessary for our long-term success dat you agree, I assure you.

*End of recorded minutes*

 

Transcript from live coverage of the “Academic Grudge Match”: Dr. Gerald Benchley vs. Ms. Madison O’Connell.

Anchor Ken Riley: Hello and good evening, I’m Ken Riley at NBC’s On Point. Today, we will provide you with live coverage of an event that we here at On Point believe is the first of its kind. Two academics will compete to decide the fate of Dr. Gerald Benchley: whether or not he will remain as a professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Dr. Gerald Benchley’s bizarre physical appearance coupled with his outspoken views on the benefits of fungal implants and the shallow prejudice of contemporary American society have made him a household name. Today we will provide you with live coverage of the “Academic Grudge Match” between Dr. Gerald Benchley and a select member of the biology faculty at UMASS Amherst. Benchley has called his opponents, “luddites, morons, and hacks.” We go live to Sheila DeBreeze at UMASS Amherst. Sheila?”

 

Sheila DeBreeze: Good evening Ken. I’m standing in the room where the competition is about to take place. It’s one of the graduate school labrooms and as you can see a small audience has been admitted to witness the competition. Dr. Benchley’s tenured position as a professor is at stake here, so several of the University big-wigs are present: the president of the university, Tim Hockney and the provost, Dr. Don Keller. I have here with me the man himself, Dr. Gerald Benchley. Good evening doctor.

Dr. Benchley: Good evening Sheila.

Sheila: How are you feeling?

Dr. Benchley: Confident.

Sheila: Not nervous or anything? No headaches?

Dr. Benchley: Actually it’s funny you should mention headaches. I actually never get headaches anymore. You see the fruiting bodies on my forearms?

Sheila: Uhh, yes, yes I can see them fine.

Dr. Benchley: Well, they are Saccharomyces capitus delores, which is very effective at treating headaches. Using my special technique for establishing a symbiotic relationship between fungus and human, I’m for all intents and purposes immune to headaches.

Sheila: Are there any negative side effects, besides uh…having mushrooms growing out of your arms?

Dr. Benchley: None whatsoever, and I do not consider the alteration in my appearance a negative side effect. I believe fashion must step aside to make room for good health.

Sheila: What do you know about the professor you’ll be challenging, Madison O’Connell?

Dr. Benchley: Ms. O’Connell is not actually a professor, she’s a graduate student.

Sheila: Why have they chosen a graduate student to challenge you?

Dr. Benchley: Frankly Sheila I have no idea. It seems like total lunacy to me, unless for some reason they actually want me to succeed here tonight, which is highly unlikely. Either way, I’m unconcerned.

Sheila: Thank you Dr. Benchley. Ken, the format- oh, careful there doctor…

Dr. Benchley: My apologies.

Ken Riley: What just happened?

Sheila: Dr. Benchley’s uhh…tail…sort of snagged on the cord for the boom mic, but everything’s fine.

Ken Riley: Well I’m relieved to hear everone’s ok. Were you about to describe the format of tonight’s competition?

Sheila: Yes, and it’s a very straightforward affair. As you can see, each participant has a white exam booklet on the table in front of them. These booklets contain the written test. Dr. Benchley has prepared fifty questions for Ms. O’Connell, and Ms. O’Connell has prepared fifty questions for Dr. Benchley. These questions pertain to biology, specifically to fungi, and they have been reviewed by independent research scientists unaffiliated with UMASS Amherst. The participant to score the highest mark on his respective quiz will win the first round. The second round involves simple logic puzzles, unrelated to biology, prepared by the philosophy department at Amherst. It’s sort of a test of pure reasoning skills. For the third and final round, each participant must perform a simple experiment to solve a problem. The first participant to solve the problem will win the third round. Finally, each round has a time limit. If a participant has failed to complete a round when its time limit expires, they must proceed to the next round, leaving the remaining questions blank. When the time limit on the third round expires, whichever participant has earned the most points will be declared the winner. If Dr. Benchley is successful, he will retain his post as professor of biology. If Ms. O’Connell is successful, Dr. Benchley will be dismissed from the university.

Ken Riley: Well, it’s tough to imagine Dr. Benchley would even want to continue working at UMASS given the faculty seems so united against him.

Sheila: You would think so, but Dr. Benchley doesn’t seem to care much what people think of him. He certainly can’t afford to, looking like that. Oh, well it looks like the competition is about to begin. The president is going make a short address, and then the professors will turn over their papers and begin the quiz.

President Hockney: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the UMASS faculty, thank you for joining us at this unprecedented event. Seated on my left is Madison O’Connell, a doctoral candidate at the university, and seated on my right is Dr. Gerald Benchley. The University of Massachusetts has elected to accept Dr. Benchley’s terms because we have nothing to hide. Dr. Benchley’s termination is not a matter of “a wide and deep conspiracy against free thought”, as Dr. Benchley has said in the media. It is simply a matter of Dr. Benchley’s failure to achieve the competence expected of a UMASS professor, both publicly and within the academic setting. I have in my hand a legally binding document that stipulates that should Dr. Benchley succeed here tonight, we will honor his terms and he will remain a professor at UMASS, albeit on non-trivial academic probation, but that should he fail, his contract will be immediately terminated and henceforward he will not be employed at this instution. I would ask Dr. Keller to sign as a witness.

Sheila: Ken, the document has been signed on live-t.v., there’s no question that the outcome of this competition will be legally binding. They’ve turned over their papers and they’ve begun the first portion of the quiz.

Ken: Thanks Sheila. Exciting stuff. We’ll be right back after a few good old commercials. Even NBC’s gotta pay the bills.

(…)

Ken: And we’re back. Sheila? How are things over at Amherst?

Sheila: Ken, Dr. Benchley is absolutely flying through the quiz. He’s already well into the third page, and Ms. O’Connell hasn’t even turned her first page yet. She’s looking a little stressed, see how’s she’s sort of hunched over the paper, twisting her pencil and shaking her head a little bit?

Ken: I remember feeling a lot like that during my finals.

Sheila: Don’t we all. As you can see, zoom in on them please Todd, both Dr. Benchley and Ms. O’Connell are starting to sweat, although that could just be because the temperature and humidity in this lab are both a little high; but of course they might need a high ambient temperature and humidity for the experiments later on. And Benchley has finished the first section! He’s moved on to the logic puzzles and he is not slowing down! O’Connell has only just turned the first page, and the time limit for the first round is only five minutes away. This could be an upset. Wait a minute….Something odd is happening here Ken; Dr. Benchley appears to have asked for a napkin and he is now wiping his right fore-arm as he writes the quiz. He’s gone through the first napkin already and is now applying a second. It doesn’t appear to be sweat; Todd can we zoom in please? What are you seeing Todd?

Todd: It looks a bit like…pus or something…coming out of that mushroom. A lot of pus, oozing out.

Sheila: It looks like Dr. Benchley’s fungus is acting up or something, this could seriously distract him from the quiz, and especially during the experiments section when he needs both hands to manipulate the tools.

Ken: Surely he’ll be allowed an assistant?

Sheila: I don’t think so Ken. Part of the contest stipulates that the each participant perform the experiment solo, and if Benchley is unable to do that because of his fungal growths, well, that just further proves the administration’s point that he is unfit to serve as a professor.

Todd: Oh Jesus!

Sheila: What? Oh my god!
Ken: What’s happening?

Sheila: It’s…it’s growing! Ken, the mushrooms he showed us earlier, the one on his left arm is growing too! They’re covering his arms. Christ it’s hideous!

Ken: We’ll be right back.

(…)

Ken: Before we cut back to Sheila’s live feed, I would like to stress that the following images are very graphic, and our more sensitive viewers are cautioned they may find these images unsettling. Sheila?

Sheila: Well Ken, as you can see Dr. Benchley is suffering a massive problem. Two of his fungal growths have sort of…gone haywire and grown uncontrollably all down his arms, engulfing his hands completely in these these thick, tangled black cocoons. A large number of white and yellow bulbs have started growing out of the fungus, it’s like something out of a horror movie. His hands are totally useless, but he’s managed to finish the logic puzzles and now he must complete the experiment. I can’t see how he is going to manage that without the use of his hands.

Ken: Sheila, can you explain the experiment to us?

Sheila: Unfortunately Ken, the experiments were kept secret so there could be no question of cheating. Each participant received an email from the University of South Carolina containing the experiment details only minutes before the competition began, so only Ms. O’Connell and Dr. Benchley really know what’s going on here.

Ken: Give us the blow by blow.

Sheila: Well Ken Ms. O’Connell is only just now nearing the end of the logic puzzles, so Dr, Benchley still has a firm lead. Dr. Benchley is…oh Jesus, the fungus appears to be spreading up his arms and shoulders towards his neck. And the smell, Jesus! It’s giving off this odor, aww it smells like you wouldn’t believe Ken. People in the audience are gagging here, and…oh God…I’m sorry-just a minute.

Ken: Sheila? Sheila are you o.k.?

Sheila: (wretching, off camera).

Ken: Todd, is Sheila O.K.? What’s going on?

Todd: She’s uhh…vomiting. It smells pretty bad. Like someone opened a sewer.

Ken: Is she o.k.?

Sheila: I’m sorry Ken, the stench in here, and the heat and humidity, it’s enough to make you pass out. My apologies. Phew. Anyway. Ms. O’Connell is wearing a surgical mask and she’s quickly gathering her materials for the experiment- flasks, fertilizer, even a bunson burner. Dr. Benchley is attempting to gather materials using only his mouth, he’s going for a flask now, he’s got it, ooo he lost his grip there and that’s one flask shattered. He’s trying for a second…nope that one’s down too. It’s actually a bit comical, the people who are still here are definitely giggling a little. Ok, he’s got a flask settled on the table, but now he’s trying to unscrew the cap from the chemical bottle with his teeth, which is proving difficult because it appears his arms are sort of locked in a writing position; he can’t bend them, so he’s just jerking his neck back and forth. He’s got the cap off-Oh!-the jerking motion has knocked the chemical bottle off the table and onto the floor, the liquids are pouring out, he’s down on all fours nudging it with his head and trying to right it, big laughs now from the audience, even Ms. O’Connell is having a chuckle. He’s managed to right the bottle, he’s clutching the handle firmly in his mouth, he’s standing up, he’s moving back towards the table-OH-he’s slipped on the spilled chemicals and he’s back down on the ground, he couldn’t break the fall with his arms so he fell on his side but he’s managed to keep the bottle in his mouth, he’s standing back up much more carefully, he’s turning around….oh my. Well…hahaha. I’m sorry Ken this is too funny…It…haha…it appears Dr. Benchley’s tail must have snapped when he fell over…it’s sort of dangling by a thread. The audience is really having a hoot. Dr. Benchley is turning around, he doesn’t know what’s so funny, he’s really glaring at the audience, he’s turned back to the experiment, still doesn’t realize his tail is broken, and the audience is getting a big kick out of this dramatic irony, they’re really enjoying this Ken.

Ken: Keep him on as a performer maybe.

Sheila: Haha right, he could definitely have a future there. This is giving the Stooges a run for their money, I can tell you. What’s funnier is Ms. O’Connell is laughing the hardest of all, she’s doubled over, one hand on the lab table, laughing hysterically. Dr. Benchley is asking her what’s so funny and she’s pointing towards his tail, and he’s turning around to see but he can’t, he’s sort of spinning around trying to see his tail, and all this turning is setting the tail wagging back and forth, the audience is just dying here Ken, and-oh dear- the tail has detached completely and plopped onto the ground and…oh Christ…is that…s***?

Part 5

“What are your kids dressing up for on Halloween?”

“Roger’s dressing up as that Doctor, the one with the tail who crapped on T.V. Sheena just wants to be a fairie. Yours?”

“Yup, Danny’s doin the same. D’you get the costume at Halloween Outlet? With the detachable tail and the fake doo-doo?”

“Yeah. It’s hysterical.”

——-

“So how about that Dr. Benchley? I don’t think they shoulda fired him you know? Yeah, I really don’t. I mean, he seemed like such a fun guy. But seriously folks…”

——-

“We’re thinking condiment bottles. You lift the tail, squeeze, and the condiments come out his ass.”

“That’s genius!”

——-

“Dr. Zeige, your accelerant worked marvelously.”
“Danke schoen. The results I fear may be…long lasting.”

“Well that is certainly not a problem. I think it’s time you became a full professor. Waters is on the way out, O’Connell is moving up, how’d you like to head biology at Amherst?”

“It would be a pleasure.”

——-

“Yes ma’am, how can we help you?”

“Well you see, I’m a landlord, and one of my tenants has sort of…disappeared…without paying his rent.”

“Do you have any idea where he might be?”

“Well no obviously, he’s disappeared you see.”

“He didn’t leave a forwarding address?”

“Are you thick or something? He’s dis–a–peared.”

“No need to be rude ma’am, I’m just doing my job. Does he have any friends or colleagues who might know where he is?”

“Hardly. He’s a bit of a freak you know, a loner.”

“Okay. How long has he been…disappeared for?”

“About one month.”

“And uh…do you have any idea why he’s disappeared.”

“Are you joking?”

“Not at all, sometimes the tenant has simply taken a vacation and forgotten to inform the landlord. Happens all the time.”

“I assure you, he is not on vacation. You see my tenant…my tenant was Dr. Gerald Benchley.”

“You’re kidding!”

——-

“You knew Dr. Benchley?”

“Yes I did. I was his science teacher in the eighth grade.”

“What can you tell me about him? What was he like in school? Any important memories stand out?”

“Well, he was unusually intelligent for his age, and he seemed very bored with the class’s curriculum. So, I offered Gerald the chance to challenge the tests, and, if he passed, he could devote his class time to his own research projects, on the condition that he present his findings to the class. He took me up on the offer and made a presentation about mushrooms, but after that I no longer allowed him to do his own research.”

“Why was that?”
“Well, On the day of his presentation Gerald came to class with three boxes
of pizza from Papa Gino’s, and understandably the class went wild. He
hadn’t informed me he would be doing this, and I certainly wouldn’t have
allowed it, but once the kids smelled that pizza there was no going
back, so I had to roll with it. He also had a Tupperware container
full of mushrooms he had grown himself. He called the mushrooms, “Goldies”, after his dog, a golden retreiver. That was a giveaway, but I was so preoccupied with all the kids going pizza crazy that I missed it. He wanted us to try the pizza with the mushrooms. I know your probably thinking they were magic mushrooms or whatever, but they weren’t. He wasn’t a prankster. Anyway, he gave everyone a slice of pizza and he gave everyone some mushrooms to put on their pizzas. Then he encouraged us to eat our pizza while he gave his presentation on how he’d grown the mushrooms. The pizza was really delicious, and I admit the mushrooms were delicious as well, and so most of the kids had eaten their first slice before he had even started thepowerpoint.

“Anyway, he started the powerpoint, talking about where to buy spores, growth time, sunlight, temperature, and moisture requirements and so forth. But then he got to the slide titled “Fertilizer”, and there was just this big picture of a happy golden retriever staring at us, tongue lolling out and everything. Goldie. Now I figured it out right away and I almost threw up. The students hadn’t gotten it yet, but before I could do anything about it Gerald had moved on to the next slide. He had taken photos of Goldie
defecating into potting containers, into which Gerald had added soil
and the mushroom spores. All hell broke loose. Kids were throwing up
all over the lab benches, the girls had started crying, and Gerald was
just standing their saying, “But they taste good don’t they? They’re not
bad for you or anything. I washed them. What’s the matter?’ He genuinely did not
understand what he had done wrong.

After that, he ran away from home. It was a nightmare. He lived in the Quabbin Reservoir by himself for a week, and he was only thirteen! They had to call the national guard. He was just so sad you see, all he’d wanted to do was give people some good tasting mushrooms, and the whole thing had blown up in his face. He got beat up a lot after that incident. ”

“How do you feel about his current disappearance? He’s been missing for six months.”

“Bad I suppose. He was such a nice boy, and so clever. He just didn’t understand what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t. I do hope he comes back and gets rid of his awful mushrooms.”

‘Do you have any ideas where he might be? Any friends of his we could contact, long-lost relatives? Anything?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I haven’t spoken with him in forty years.”

“Thanks for your time ma’am.”
“Not at all officer. Good luck.”

——-

“I hate hiking. It’s so boring.”

“Stop complaining. No one wants to hear it.”

“Honey, you remember our first trip in Quabbin? With the canoe? Good thing we brought those bananas eh?”

“Oh stop it.”

“Oh, I talked to Will about Saturday. They’re coming over for sure. But the Wellingdon’s can’t make it.”

“Oh no, why not?”

“Sylvia’s got to finish her grant proposel before June, so she’s really under the gun, what with teaching all those other classes and all.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Yeah.”

“And I need to remember to fix the sealent around the shower, it’s been leaking again.”

“Oh dear, again?”

“What’s that Dad?”

“What’s what son?”

“That- in the trees. It looked like a man.”

“I don’t see anyone. Do you see anyone honey?”

“No.”

“I saw him. His arms and his head were all big and weird, he looked like a…a big mushroom.”

“Don’t worry son. All those green leaves and all those tree branches, they can play tricks on you, you see things that aren’t there. On the other hand, it could’ve been a bear.”

“It wasn’t a bear. I know what a bear looks like.”
“They have bears out here you know. Bears can tear a grown man limb from limb.”

“Stop it honey, you’re scaring him.”

“No I’m not. Am I scaring you, son?”

 

 

 

 

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